I’ve been quiet for quite some time now. There are 2 reasons for that. The first one is simply because I have been busy on a couple of projects and just didn’t find the time to write another blog post. The second reason is that I wanted to wait and see what would happen with all of the bad news around Flex and LiveCycle. I did not want to overreact, as many other people have done, causing a temporary wide spread panic about Flash being killed.
I completely agree that it has been poor communication from Adobe, especially after what they have announced at AdobeMAX this year. So, timing could have been better and the messages that they initially shared could have been better formulated. Adobe acknowledges this and have sent out their apologies for that as well. But the harm was already done. I even saw people leaving prerelease and other programs (I can’t mention by name) furious about what happened and turning their backs on Adobe entirely. I respect those decisions, but come on, is it really such a bad thing?
For those of you who are not quite up to speed on what exactly is going on at Adobe. Let me briefly state the latest developments.
- Adobe is dropping the Flash player on mobile devices
- Flex is going to become completely open source
- LiceCycle will be discontinued after the next release
- AIR on mobile (iOS, Android, PlayBook) is still going to be developed
- Flash Builder will continue to be developed by Adobe
- The next version of Flash Builder will not have a Design View
- The DCD feature will be dropped in the next release of Flash Builder
Let’s start with LiveCycle. For those of you who don’t know what LiveCycle is, it is a product that allows you to define information workflows, mainly based on PDFs. So, for example, you could fill out a job application form in a PDF, digitally sign it with you eID card (in Belgium at least) and send it to a specific email address. The PDF attachment gets picked up from the mailbox and the information is extracted and put in a database. After that a “thank you” email is sent to the applicant, while in the mean time the HR manager is notified of a new application. Upon approval by the HR manager in the so called “workspace” a new PDF is sent to the unit manager, notifying him that he should interview this candidate, together with the candidate’s résumé. After the interview the unit manager can then input his findings in a evaluation form and LiveCycle will pick that up as well to put it into the database and notify the HR manager that the evaluation has been submitted. Would the candidate be rejected, the can be marked in the “workspace” again for example, an automatic email will be sent to the candidate notifying him of his rejection.
Now, this is just one example of what LiveCycle can do. Even though Adobe is shifting its focus towards other strategic solutions, they will continue to develop LiveCycle (as you can read here), invest in finding new customers and product support is still guaranteed, so you’re not left alone with your solution if you’re currently using LiveCycle.
As for dropping the Flash Player on mobile devices, I don’t think that is a bad thing. You see, if Adobe wants to keep the same version of the Flash Player on all devices (desktop, mobile, tablet) then a lot of code will have to go in checking whether or not things certain features are available. This requires a lot of effort and slows down progress on the features that matter the most. I mean, come on, when did you actually use a Flash based website on you mobile device? Either it wasn’t mobile optimized causing frustration in content that is not scaled properly, or it just was overkill for a mobile device.
Now Adobe has the opportunity to focus on the desktop platform and make full use of the GPU hardware acceleration and other cool features that require more processing power than what the other devices can offer at this moment. It is clear that Adobe wants to move in the direction of gaming with Flash, which I have been expecting for some time now.
Remember, I just said that the Flash Player will be dropped on mobile. That does not mean that the cross-device AIR solution is being dropped. On the contrary! AIR for mobile devices will continue to be developed by Adobe and is one of the key products/features they will maintain. So you don't have to worry about your cross-device development.
However, the Flex SDK is going to be put into the Apache project, bringing along a new produt name as well, since Adobe won’t own the SDK anymore. Once the incubator is accepted, the product will be called "Apache Flex". You can read all about the Apache Flex Incubator right here.
That means that from that point on the SDK will be developed and maintained by the community. That will be a good thing in the sense that probably we’ll get more features more rapidly developed. But – and there’s a big "but" in here – I do see a problem in the adopt of the Flex technology in big companies. You see, what companies want is a support contract with time frame commitment. They want a red phone to the help desk when they encounter serious problems and at the moment they are paying big money for that. Once Flex is owned by the community, Adobe probably won’t be doing anymore support, because it is now up to the community.
This lack of support is what could harm Flex in the high end business companies. But then again, this will also lead to new opportunities for companies such as multimediacollege in the sense that we can now write and publish our own training material, as well as provide support contracts for helping out companies who need assistance with some Flex problems.
So, is Flex dead? Definitely not! And it isn’t dying either. We will have a huge community supporting the development and some highly skilled developers working on the features. I wish I had some magical device that allows me to see into the future to see what will happen with Flex when it becomes completely Open Source. But for now, I’m not yet worried about it’s future…